How to be poor even if you are rich.

Brotherly affection is one of those qualities that Peter tells us that we need to add to our faith. He promises to us that if we have it and increase in it that we will receive a valuable benefit. First, we will not be ineffective as a Christian; second, we will not be unfruitful as a Christian; third, we will not stumble and finally, we will be given entrance into the Kingdom of Jesus.  But what happens when we do not have brotherly affection? To answer this question, let’s look at the Prodigal son’s brother.

After the Prodigal had returned and his father was celebrating this return, the brother came in from the field and found out “there was a party goin’ on.”

But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'”  (Luk 15:28-32 ESV)

He shows us how to be poor even if you are rich because…

He had no compassion on his brother.

Really, one might say that he didn’t even consider him to be his brother. “This son of yours” is a clear indication that he had separated from his the prodigal. Rather than rejoicing at the return of this prodigal to his good senses and to the family,  the brother is more concerned about the party that is being thrown. Perhaps he considered it  a  further waste of his inheritance since the prodigal had wasted his portion.

He was short sighted.

He focused on the service he had given his father and yet, never had received such a party for his friends as his father was throwing for the prodigal.  I rather doubt that this is completely true. In my own life, I know that I have exaggerated in order to justify my position. The use of the word “never” is key. What’s this? The father who is so generous to the returning prodigal NEVER(?) did anything nice for his son, never (?) threw a party for him, never(?) lavished him with gifts or some other present?

It may also be that the son had never asked. The father indicates that the son has access to what the Father had, could it be that he never asked for a party?

He bore a grudge.

There are many reasons why he could be upset with the Prodigal brother but he directs his anger at the party and the father. Why are you being so nice to him? In the parable, we see the Prodigal returning to the father to ask forgiveness. Perhaps this Prodigal needed to do the same thing to his brother. It was, after all, a sudden departure that robbed the family not just of physical wealth but relational wealth.  However, the brother would rather hold the grudge than confront his Prodigal brother (who, if I read the story correctly, would have begged forgiveness). This grudge would keep them separated longer now and it was not longer the Prodigal who was missing but the brother who is leaving (not physically but relationally).

He may have been envious.

In many contexts I have heard a sentiment expressed that says in so many words: If I had not been a Christian, I would have been able to enjoy this or that pleasure of life before getting saved. That is an expression of envy and unworthy of those who are called by the name of Christ. We envy those who are enjoying the pleasures of this world because we see ourselves restricted by the “rules” of being God’s sons.  Would we also envy their fate if they do not return?

The Prodigal’s brother was rich but he was really poor. Until his brother’s return, this poverty was not so easily noticed. Perhaps his father had realized this, maybe the father felt like he had lost two sons the day the prodigal left.

The application of this should be easy: If we are the brother who is still at home in the household of God, let us not fail to realize and recognize the benefits we have by serving our Heavenly Father. Let us also realize that we have a brother (or sister) who has left and needs to be welcomed back with open arms if they return.  We should not envy them, bear a grudge, or feel that their return will in any way diminish our reward.

Question: Are there other undesirable qualities that the brother showed in this parable?

photo credit: Martin Young 42

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About Steven Sarff

If I were to offer any one piece of advice to one wishing to serve God, it would be to put Hebrews 11:6 and Acts 17:11 into action and let God guide you to grow in the grace and knowledge of His Son Jesus Christ.

Posted on June 27, 2012, in Brotherly affection, Christianity, Faith and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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